Bear With Us

I can’t say enough about how cool the Anan Bear Observatory was. The ability to walk into their domain and remain there while the bears went about their business with little to no concern about us was an amazing experience but as it is with cruising we had to move on. It still deserves another picture.

We went back to Wrangell so Cam could catch his flight back home and for us it was the signal to start heading back south. The calendar is conspiring against us. We want to get some final things done to the boat back in the Vancouver area and see friends and family before we head down the coast and on to Mexico, so we need to head back that way.

Cam keeping his beer cold

After we left Wrangell we did the run to Thorne Bay where we overnighted. Thorne Bay was once the second biggest logging camp in Alaska but is now just a small town on the bay. This evolution, it turns out, is going to be the theme of the week.

From there, we bypassed Ketchikan and carried on to Foggy Bay where we stayed the night before heading back across Dixon Entrance to Prince Rupert.  An “easy” button for this crossing even if the forecast was for winds from the North West, which would have been ideal for our direction, and instead they were from the South East. After arriving at Prince Rupert we cleared customs back into Canada, picked up some groceries and spent the night before we carried on.

Two of the other locations we have visited since our entry back into BC were Butedale and Ocean Falls.  Butedale was once a large fish cannery operation and is now basically just ruins that are slowly being taken down either by man or by nature.

Butedale ruins

Ocean Falls was once a thriving lumber mill with up to 5000 people living and working there. In 1973 the company shut down the operation and all but a few of hardy residents left with it. There are currently about 25 full time residents. Most of the buildings have been knocked down, fallen on their own or are being reclaimed by nature but many remain as if in a time capsule. Apparently, they were even a few championship swimmers that came from the Olympic size pool that was there. It has since been filled in.

Ocean Falls Apartment Building
From the side
Ocean Falls Supermarket

It was eerie, spooky, a bit cool and a bit sad all at the same time to walk down a street and look into homes with lamps and appliances, faded and tattered wall paper and even some personal effects from past residents still in place. While we were walking through the site I was half expecting someone to cue the horror movie music.

For Sale ad would read “needs some TLC”.

I had mentioned in an earlier post about how hard it was to get whales to perform on cue. I was able to meet with their agent and we had two occasions where they were surfacing close enough we could get some pictures. We also had some dolphins come and play in the bows. Always a thrill. If I ever get tired of it, it will be time to get off the boat.

 

Beary Cool !!!!!

Cam, Barb and I made arrangements with Breakaway Adventures for their Anan Bear tour. A 7-hour day with a jet boat ride to and from Anan bay, orientation by the US Forest Service Rangers, armed escort (you are in bear territory after all) for the ½ mile walk to the bear viewing area and 4 hours at the viewing area including time in the lower blind. You end up right at the creek where the bears are feeding on the salmon coming up the Anan river. You and the bears are separated by a 3 foot high 2×4 fence and a couple of rangers with bear spray and guns if needed (fortunately not on our trip).

How cool was this? Well we lived in bear country and it was not uncommon for us to have bears in the back yard at the house and we were still awed by having them this close and behaving like we did not exist.

We’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

 

Upper level viewing platform

 

Boating Again

Much has happened since the last blog posting. We are back with a working boat and left Wrangell for a few days of cruising around the local area that included nights in Kindergarten Bay, Coffman Cove, Red Bay and Roosevelt Harbor.
While walking around Coffman Cove, we came across a substantial green house operation. There was a woman inside who waved us in. After the usual hello’s and where are you from’s? she gave us the low down on the green house.

It turns out that she is a teacher and the greenhouse is run by the students at the local high school, funded by grants from the state and school district. Due to shipping, fresh produce is hard to get and is expensive when it is in Alaska. The green house operations are part of the school program. They provide fresh produce for the salad bar at the schools everyday and any excess is sold at the weekly farmers market which offsets some of the costs. Sounds like a winning program all round.

Coffman Cove Greenhouse

Cam came up from Vancouver to spend a week with us. He flew into Wrangell so once again we were back there. Wrangell has some kind on magical bungee cord on us. We get so far and then it snaps us back. With Cam on board we headed up to Petersburg and further up to Tracy Arm where we were able to dodge the ice bergs (pick up truck size to 3 story apartment size) and bergie bits (small chunks of ice ranging from beach ball size to pick up truck size) and made our way up the fjord to Sawyer Glacier.

Bergie bit for the cooler
Large house sized ice berg

The main glacier face was packed with floating ice and a couple of National Geographic cruise ships, so we could not get too close.

Sawyer Glacier with Nat Geo ships

We decided to try our luck up the north arm and were greeted with a nearly clear path all the way to the glacier face and not another boat in the bay. Absolutely stunning !!!

North Sawyer Glacier
North Sawyer close up

A little concerning when the charts all say the area is “unsurveyed” and our chart plotter shows us 1800 feet onto land with 300 feet of water still under us.

Note yellow track line well into “Land”

The inlet next to Tracy Arm is Endicot Arm. While we were entering Tracy we noticed the ice packs in Endicot and were wondering if we had a chance to check it out as well. As we were discussing this we heard a conversation on the VHF radio between two other boats and one was describing how they were forced to turn back at the entrance as they could not find a way through the ice flows. Our decision was made for us.

It was very fortunate that we had Cam on board with us as the next morning as we were headed back to Petersburg we hit the cruisers version of the “F” word FOG. This cut our visibility down from miles to meters is some areas. Cam, with his experience on the tug boats, was able to fine tune our radar and we successful navigated our way back to Portage Cove for the night. The next morning we were in various degrees of fog again as we made our way back down to Petersburg and through Wrangell Narrows and back to Wrangell. Cam flies back home in a couple of days but we are taking a tour from Wrangell to the Anan Bay Bear Observatory before he goes. That place was so cool it deserves its own post. More to come. Stay tuned.

Hurry Up and Wait… or overnight delivery takes a week

We are in Wrangell Alaska and have been for the last 10 days. We ordered the parts 2 days after we got here from a company on Vancouver Island and the company shipped them by UPS the next day. A day later they were in Anchorage Alaska. That was 5 days ago, and we are still waiting to get them from Anchorage to here. With any luck they will be here tomorrow. So is life while you are sailing in out of the way destinations, its just part of the game. You have two options get frustrated and let it ruin the experience or take if for what it is and make use of the time really seeing what and where you are.

Downtown Wrangell
Wrangell mural

With that in mind we took a jet boat tour up the Stikine River to Shakes Glacier and checked that out. The glacier face is not as tall as some of the more famous one up here but the lake at the front of the glacier is 600 feet deep. You don’t want to get too close. When this one calves the pieces burst to the surface of the lake. You would not want one to come up under the boat.

Shakes Glacier
Floating fishing cabin
Jet river tour boat

We of course, walked the town and checked out the museum and once again the public library for the Wi-Fi. (I’ve been told they keep books in these buildings too) and we did a little shopping in the stores.

We have been told that if you are in Alaska for the 4th of July you have to be in Wrangell. Coincidentally that’s where we are so we took in all the festivities the town puts on. They have events going for almost the entire week leading up to the 4th. Its quite a feat that a town of 2400 can do as much as they do and the whole town gets involved. Everything from old school egg toss and sack race competitions to a parade, pie sale (5 bucks a slice and yes it was tasty), greased pole climb, with a hundred dollar bill at the end for the successful contestant, boat races, logging show, street dance and of course fireworks.

Greased pole climb
Quads on Parade
4th of July Parade

The first couple of days the weather was cold and rainy but the last several have had bright sunshine and temperatures in the 80’s. July 4th was down right hot, good thing the beer was cold.

Wrangell from Mt Dewey

Parts finally arrived yesterday, we got hauled out in the afternoon, repair done and put back in the water by 6pm.  We were stunned when Tyler the mechanic would not accept any payment for his services.  He wanted “something good to happen to us in Wrangell”, amazing!  We are off to do some exploring around here, will be back in Wrangell in a few days to pick up our son, Cam, who will spend a week with us.